IT Performance Improvement
Networking and Telecommunications
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The Social Enterprising Environment
Work is made up of a series of projects. You might have a project to create software. Another to develop a marketing campaign. And still another to develop that new style of automobile. Yet a variety of studies have found that many projects are quite prone to failure. In the world of software development, the Standish Group found that only 32 % of surveyed projects were considered to be successful (i.e. on time, on budget and with the required functionality and feature set). Nearly one quarter of projects were considered to be failures. The rest were considered to be challenged, an euphemism for late, over budget or implemented without the full set of promised functions and features. It should be noted, however, that there are many who dispute the Chaos report findings. What's undisputed is that a large number of projects do fail.
Quite a few things can, and do, go wrong. There are a host of reasons that can negatively impact success, but high up on the list is the human element. It is critical that stakeholders collaborate with a clear vision of what is to be achieved, how it is to be achieved, and at what cost and in what time frame.
Social networking can allow employees to get to know each other better, which fosters a better relationship. Social networking connects people and creates a sense of trust and responsibility towards each other.
Having the right people on a team is certainly key to the success of a project. In a large pharmaceutical company, the lead designer walked off a very important project. Obviously, that set the team back quite a bit as no one else had enough experience to do what he did. Even if the staff says put, there is still the possibility that a "people" issue will negatively affect the project. For example, a change in senior management might mean that the project you are working on gets canned or moved to a lower priority. A project manager working for America Online Time Warner had just started an important new project when a new president was installed. He did what all new presidents do: he engaged in a little housecleaning. Projects got swept away, and so did some people. When the dust settled, the project manager personally had a whole new set of priorities, as well as a bunch of new team members to work with.
As you can see, today's dynamically changing, and very volatile, business landscape can play havoc with social enterprising efforts and going global adds an entirely new dimension to the mix. What we need, then, is a whole new paradigm of software development that places the human aspect at the center of social enterprising.
The Social Network
Social networking is a hot topic. More than 30 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook each month and Nielsen researchers say that consumers spend more than five and a half hours on social networking sites per day. So I am sure it doesn't come as a surprise that social networking has made its way into the workplace.
As early as 2008, AT&T released the results of a research study they conducted in Europe. The study, conducted by Dynamic Markets, found that the use of social networking tools has lead to an increase in efficiency. Of the 2,500 people were surveyed in five countries, 65% said that use of these tools has made them or their colleagues more efficient and 46% insisted that it has sparked ideas and creativity.
Deep Nishar is vice president of products and user experience at LinkedIn. He's in charge of a group of data researchers that look at everything from data center behavior to trends in search and mobile communications. His eclectic staff have experience in such fields as brain surgery, computer science, meteorology and poetry. According to Nishar, machine-based systems like Google can't keep up with organizing the data they are capturing. Interesting and important problems will be solved by looking at social networks.
In 1976, sci-fi author Richard Dawkins coined the term meme, which is an idea that moves from person to person and onward. With social networking tools staff can check to see what ideas people are discussing within the organization. Some refer to these sorts of tools as a "meme broadcast tool." Where marketers have Twitter to communicate with people outside the company, business people can use services such as Yammer to share information within the company, discuss relevant issues and more .
Bleeding edge organizations have already figured out how to make social networking profitable for them. SolarWinds, a network management company, built a 25,000 member user community of network administrators who help each other with various problems. This allows the company to support a customer base of over 88,000 companies with just two customer support people. Cisco created employee councils and shifted decision making down to these levels. The councils are supported using collaborative technologies. Indeed, Cisco's CEO, John Chambers, insists that most of the progress made during the past two years has been because of collaborative and social technologies.
When IBM transformed an Intranet into a social network, it provided each of IBM's 365,000 employees a voice and identity that not only helped increase effectiveness and productivity, it also helped workers transcend national cultures. IBM uses a variety of social networking tools. Long before Facebook graduated from college, IBM created its own internal social networking site, which they called BluePages. It lists basic information about an employee as well as views of that individual, such as who reports to them, who they report to, what organization they're in and what communities they are a part of. Employees can self-edit their listing, and even add a picture. Clicking on an entry allows someone to send an instant message.
Perhaps the most powerful feature is social tagging, also called social bookmarking. Clicking on an employee not only brings up identifying data, it also brings up the employees tags; i.e., blog feeds, RSS feeds, communities joined, social networks joined, recent forum entries and wiki participation. Ethan McCarty, who is former editor in chief of IBM's intranet describes it like this, "if you think of the phases of the intranet and even internet communication, first it's about access to information, then it's about transacting with it - like e-business - and now it's more about people."
The people we refer to as the Millennial's come into the workplace with cellphones glued to their ear and fingers firmly glued to the keyboard tweeting and Facebooking to friends and strangers alike. These folks think that talking on the phone is passť. Some don't even have landlines. These folks are communicating via social networks, instant message, Twitter and smartphones. However, it's their older brothers and sisters, Gen-Y, that is working to convince tech management of the values of these new technologies, according to a Forrester Research survey of 2000 IT professionals. This isn't all that surprising as a recent Pew report found that Internet users from all ages groups have increased their usage. While 83% of those between 18 and 33 use social networking, those 45 and older more than doubled their participation.
I work for a hospital, and we use Facebook, twitter and YouTube to update the community about new services, new equipment, new physicians, health events, fundraisers, etc.
The Enterprise Social Network
The modern work paradigm can be considered to be a social activity. Most work projects use a team model, where the work is divided amongst the various team members. Various studies suggest that on large projects team members spend between 70 and 85% of their time working with others. Thus, it is important that the team collaborate effectively to achieve their common goal.
Much of the literature on the psychology of work teams concludes that most of the social problems inherent in development teams can be solved by a critical analysis of the dynamics between the people involved. This sort of introspective analysis can be helpful to explain: 1) why certain people are excluded from group decision making; 2) why there is always someone who resists the decisions of project leadership; 3) why certain kinds of people should never be grouped together to avoid group fragmentation; 4) why groups often divide themselves into subgroups; and 5) what is the difference between the "real" chain of command and the formal one.
It is worthwhile to understand individual and social perspectives that affect product design. Individuals often worry about whether they are interested enough to be effective during the span of the project. They also worry about whether they have something relevant to add to the group, and can express it clearly so that others might understand them. On the other hand, the group is interested in hearing from a wide variety of stakeholders. Thus, the group is concerned with encouraging individuals to contribute; to prevent voices from being lost because there might be too much information; to avoid illegitimate voices; to prevent getting stuck in group think; and, to eliminate sources of exclusion.
There have been a multitude of studies that discuss the vast amount of time spent on communication and collaboration with others. Modern work is an inherently collaborative and distributed process, with teams of developers working intra- and inter-organizational and globally, it is logical that these teams would require toolsets designed specifically for the collaborative, distributed nature of their work.
I use social networking to keep up with fellow accountants, so that we can compare notes and ideas about work and upcoming deadlines for tax work. It helps me keep track of seminars that might be available, and other opportunities for professional development.
The computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) community has been studying computer-assisted collaboration for quite some time. CSCW researchers have developed a number of frameworks that seek to categorize the requirements of the collaborative toolset. One framework categorizes these tools into four groups: 1) model-based collaboration tools; 2) process support tools; 3) collaboration awareness tools; and 4) collaboration infrastructure tools.
On the other hand, a more intriguing framework classifies tools based on the required effort to collaborate effectively. The framework consists of five layers and three strands, as shown in figure 1. The layers are tools and strands are critical needs that permeate all aspects of collaboration.
Figure 1. Collaboration framework.
As is often the case, many of the toolsets discussed in the literature are experimental, not offered for use by those in the field. In 2003, Booch and Brown surveyed both experimental and commercial collaborative development environments (CDE). Their definition of a CDE is a virtual space wherein all the stakeholders of a project, even if distributed by time or distance , may negotiate, brainstorm, discuss, share knowledge, and generally labor together to carry out some task. They base their requirements list on Fournier (2001). Below is the combined Fournier, Booch and Brown requirements list for this sort of environment.
- Centralized Information Management
- Configuration Control of Shared Artifacts
- Online Event Notification
- Calendaring and Scheduling
- Project Resource Profiling
- Project Dashboards and Metrics (Booch & Brown)
- Searching and Indexing of Resources and Artifacts
- Electronic Document Routing and Workflow
- Virtual Agents and Scripting of Tasks (Booch & Brown)
- Threaded Discussion Forums (Booch & Brown)
- Virtual Meeting rooms
- Instant Messaging
- On-line Voting and Polling
- Shared Whiteboards
- Co-browsing of documents
- Multiple Levels of Information Visibility (Booch & Brown)
- Community Building
- Personalization Capabilities (Booch & Brown)
- Established Protocols and Rituals
- Well-defined Scope and Leadership
- Self-publication of Content (Booch & Brown)
- Self-administration of Projects (Booch & Brown)
Web 2 technologies have finally given a voice to the collaborative needs of software developers and can lend a hand towards building the type of CDE envisioned in table 4. Web 2 engages users to build collective intelligence. One of the most common examples of this is the wiki. Wikis are so ubiquitous that the learning curve is minimal. Quite a few organizations use this tool. Studies have found that wikis really do help organization improve work processes, increase collaboration efficiency, increase knowledge reuse and identify new business opportunities. However, wikis have their own attendant problems. Insufficient usage and decaying structure all need to be addressed if wikis are to be successful.
I mainly use social networking as educational for business. Via LinkedIn profiles and Facebook specials/status updates, I can quickly find out people who are successful in what they do versus the majority who just look for a lot of friends and "likes" in the hopes of drawing business. I make sure to spend as much time and attention as I can with those that are successful, even if they're not in my line of work. There's almost always something I can learn from them and apply to my own profession.
The advent of social networking services such as LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace demonstrate the power of social networks and give us an insight into what could be created specifically at the Enterprise level. Of course, the current state of the art social networks do have some limitations. Chief among the described problems is the lack of interoperability between social networks. One way to fix this problem might be by leveraging semantic web technologies, one of which is ontologies. An ontology is a formal representation of specific domain concepts and the relationship between those concepts. A domain ontology describes the knowledge that might reside within a particular business unit or even across business units. Method ontologies capture the knowledge and reasoning needed in performing a task. Status ontologies, either dynamic or static, capture the status characteristics of a process or system. Intentional ontologies model the softer aspects of living things, such as beliefs, desires and intentions. Process ontologies capture the thee aspects of enterprise knowledge, such as enterprise knowledge (i.e., processes, organizational structure, IT structure, products, customers), domain knowledge (i.e., terms, concepts, relationships) and information knowledge (i.e., document types and structures). Finally, social ontologies describes the organizational structure and the interdependencies that exist among the social actors, such as analysts, testers, developers, etc.
Several ontologies have become universally recognized and it is expected that at some point interoperability between social networks using ontologies will become standard practice.
Sure, we can all use Microsoft Sharepoint, Oracle Beehive, or glue together any number of social networking tools such as wikis and blogs, to effect a viable software solution. We're going to discuss many of these in this book, and even show you how to use them. You'll find that there are a good social enterprising tools galore. When I first approached writing this book, I thought that this was a problem in search of a software solution. However, the more research I did, and the more people I spoke with, I became convinced that this is really a problem in search of a process. The goal of the rest of this book, therefore, is to fuse the way we work to the underpinnings of social enterprising - knowledge sharing and transfer.
From Enterprise 2.0: Social Networking Tools to Transform Your Organization by Jessica Keyes. New York: Auerbach Publications, 2012.